Paul Newman gives one of his finest performances as a Boston lawyer, who's hit bottom, until a medical negligence case of a comatose woman gives him a chance to restore his self-esteem–while fighting for the kind of justice he still believes in.
Lumet uses silence and pauses as eloquently as dialogue. The screenplay by playwright David Mamet, from Barry Reed's novel, is a bit theatrical but serves well the purposes of a courtroom melodrama.
The opposition, the Catholic Church that owns the Boston hospital, is represented by a shrewd lawyer (James Mason) who works for a prestigious firm.
As always, Lumet gets terrific performances, and not just from his leads. In small but well-defined roles, Charlotte Rampling, Jack Warden, Lindsay Crouse (then Mamet's wife), and Milo O'Shea, all shine. If you look carefully, you'll be able to spot Bruce Willis as an extra.
The movie was nominated for five Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, and Supporting Actor. However, the big winner in 1982 was Gandhi, which won Picture, Director (Richard Attenborough), and Actor (Ben Kingsley).
Mason, who never won an Oscar, lost to Louis Gossett Jr. in "An Officer and a Gentleman," and Mamet was defeated by Costa-Gavras ad Donald Stewart's taut script for Missing, which was also nominated for Best Picture.